Shares in a community solar and battery project in the New South Wales city of Orange have opened to local investors, as part of a bid to extend the benefits of solar and storage to homes and businesses in the central western region otherwise unable to access them.
The outfit behind the community solar project said on Monday that 917 shares were being offered to members of the Energy Democracy Central West NSW Co-operative at $4,995 a share, which would buy parcels of 2.5kW of panels and 2.5kWh of battery storage.
The community fundraising round is expected to fund just under half of the Orange Community Renewable Energy Park – a 4.9MW solar farm with 4.99MWh of battery energy storage that is being developed by the development arm of ITP Renewables around 6km north-west of the town centre of Orange on the Essential Energy grid.
The project, which has received $3.5 million in state government funding, will also be underwritten by equity from other investors through a fund managed by experienced solar farm asset owner and funds manager Octopus Investments Australia.
Co-op members wishing to invest have the option of having the energy generated by their shareholding deducted from their electricity bill under a “virtual net-metering” arrangement, or sold at best price on the market.
Pay-back for the investment is estimated at between five to seven years under the virtual net-metering option – a saving between $700 and $1000 each year on power bills; and roughly eight years for the investor-only option, providing a return on
investment of up to 12%, the co-op said.
The solar and battery project got the all-clear for development in March of last year, at which time Energy Democracy was able to purchase a 44% share in the project with the help of the grant funding from the NSW government’s Regional Community Energy Fund.